World’s First Helium Gas Exploration Plant Coming Up At Bakreswar

In a major development Atomic Minerals Directorate (sole explorer of Uranium in India), under the Department of Atomic Energy is collaborating with National Institute of Technology (NIT), Durgapur for world’s first commercial helium gas exploration plant from hot spring site using non-cryogenic PSA technique from Bakreswar in Birbhum, about 230 kilometres from Kolkata as part of Atmanirvar Bharat initiative and stop dependency on costly import from the USA. Talking to The Statesman, Dr Hirok Chaudhuri, associate professor of Department of Physics and Centre for Research on Environment and Water of NIT, Durgapur has informed that within the next seven days, the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) is expected to be signed between AMD and NIT, Durgapur. The draft has already been prepared. Padmabhushan Bikash Sinha and Professor Anupam Basu, Director of NIT, Durgapur are the project advisors. USA, Russia recovers helium found in natural petroleum gas and concentration is up to 7 per cent, in India 0.05 per cent and can’t produce helium from petroleum gases. Out of 340 hot springs in India, fifty per cent have a concentration of about 3.5 per cent helium gas. India’s annual consumption of He is 0.15 billion cubic feet, about 2.3 per cent of global consumption, import cost price has increased fourfolds. Helium, best known as a party gas for filling balloons and making the voice squeaky, widely used in India as rocket fuel in atomic research (ISRO) and missiles, aerostat (high altitude spy balloon) in defence sectors (DRDO), nuclear power plants, as well as in Medical Resonance Imaging (MRI) etc. “There is a proposal to set up a commercial helium recovery plant in Bakreswar hot spring which is based upon the Bakreswar – Tantloi Geothermal region of West Bengal and Jharkhand. About one kilometre deep bore well will be dug up. Within three years the project will be completed,” Dr Chaudhuri added. 20 MW Green Energy based geothermal power plant will be set up. Bakreswar is estimated to produce 60,000 commercial cylinders per annum of helium out of India’s total requirement of 6.5 lakh commercial cylinders at present. 50,000 Argon cylinders will also be produced as a by-product. Argon is used in medical science.

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